Work in Progress: Yang Shen Book II, excerpt from Flowery Flag Devils

Sungkiang East Gate

Sungkiang East Gate

In this excerpt from Chapter 30 of Book II the Foreign Rifles are attacking for the second time the walled city of Sungkiang (Songjiang) and are trapped like “turtles in a pot 壺中之龜” in the courtyard between the inner and outer east gates and have just set blackpowder charges against the inner gate.

“All the way out,” Hannibal shouted, “out the other gate.” This will not be just firecrackers, you fools.

The 1st Platoon ran on down the length of the passage and through the outer gate, taking shelter at the foot of the wall on either side, protected by the rifles of platoons across the moat. Only Fletcher, Hannibal, and Vincente remained, just inside the archway, anxiously watching over the sizzling fuses. The smell of the burning black powder drifted into the archway and up the walls. Continue reading

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Navigating the Stream of Thought

(The following is a brief review posted today at Amazon of RobertHumphrey Stream 2 Humphrey’s Stream of Consciousness in the Modern Novel.)

We begin with Joyce, move on to Woolf, and culminate with Faulkner noting along the way other practitioners and experimenters. We then hitch up our rudimentary understanding and attempt a little of this obscure revelation of the inner life, and maybe are able to carpenter together a few words, “picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen.” Continue reading

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James Lande invites readers to Goodreads Ask the Author

We are pleased to announce our participation in the Goodreads Ask the Author forum, a place where “readers can ask questions and receive answers from their favorite authors.” We have for some time been following several writers at Ask the Author, in particular Lisa See, so when dunned recently by email from Goodreads to join up we were already familiar with the feature and had only to activate it in our Goodreads profile. Continue reading

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Chinese History After the Opium War: a video perspective

Here’s an interesting video that provides additional perspective for our YouTube video China in 1860 (describing the state of affairs in China at the beginning of Yang Shen) and continues on into the early years and beyond of China ruled by the Empress Dowager. Continue reading

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Work in Progress: Yang Shen Book II, Reconnaissance of Tsingpoo

We see we’ve posted nothing since March, as we have been busy scribbling in Yang Shen, so perhaps it’s time to set forth some of what we have been working on in draft, or as Joyce called his work on Finnegan’s Wake, Work in Progress. What follows is a draft excerpt from Book II, Chapter 32 Holding the Line, Section 5, describing the reconnaissance Fletcher makes on Ah-shan’s junk of the water route from Kuangfulin to “Tsingpoo” (i.e. Qingpu, or Ch’ing-p’u). An earlier related post, Researching Locations in Virtual Earth and Sky, describes the mapping in Google Earth of the route between KFL and Tsingpoo that guided the fictional recon.

This post will be followed in coming months by a posting of a draft of Chapter 33 Assault on Tsingpoo, which makes frequent reference to narrative and imagery that appears in this segment about the recon.

Yang Shen, Book II, Chapter 32, Section 5

Up the creek to Tsingpoo’s easy, he thought, but just how to get back humihingapa? Let’s not retire on foot through miles of cotton fields chased by rebel hordes. Poke their nest tho’ and they’ll swarm out damn mad flicking nasty little stingers. Engage. Exterminate. Extricate. Continue reading

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Changes in Chinese Censorship of Western Books about China

Peter Hessler, writing in The New Yorker magazine, notes a change in the publishing climate for books about China by Westerners, after traveling on a book tour with his Chinese censor!

“My Chinese censor is Zhang Jiren,” Hessler writes, “an editor at the Shanghai Translation Publishing House, and last September he accompanied me on a publicity tour. It was the first time I’d gone on a book tour with my censor.” Continue reading

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Final report for California Intertidal Ecology Survey now posted

Coral Street, Pacific Grove CA

The Final Discussion and Conclusions report for the 2014 California Intertidal Ecology Survey is now posted on the survey website. Review and comment is very welcome.

This past summer of 2014 we conducted a privately-funded survey of the ecology of intertidal invertebrate and marine plant communities between Point Conception and Point Arena in central California. The survey was completed in June 2014 and the results posted on our blogsite at 2014 California Intertidal Ecology Survey. Field data sheets and survey reports are there for all the plants and animals encountered.

The primary objective was to record detail of environmental conditions and catalogue invertebrate species at selected survey sites, including:

White Rock State Marine Conservation Area, Cambria CA
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Pacific Grove CA
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Moss Beach CA
Bodega State Marine Reserves, Bodega ay CA
Gerstle Cove State Marine Reserve, Salt Point State Park CA
MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area, Fort Bragg CA

Our early consideration of issues such as zonation, alga growth, or species diversity in the California Intertidal zone has matured over the course of our surveys and led to an improved understanding of the value of long-term observation of the dynamic and highly diversified ecological environment of the intertidal zone as a component of a complex ocean system crucial to the health of our planet.

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Laotong 老同 “Old-sames” Women Who are Friends for Life, Revisited

Just received an inquiry through the China History Forum about the practice of laotong 老同, a uniquely Chinese kind of friendship between two girls that lasted all their lives, which was described recently by Lisa See in her novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. We described laotong in Lisa’s novel briefly in our post on Historical Fiction About China; here’s more detail on the subject of laotong from a 2012 post at CHF.

080912_1950_HistoricalF5.pngLisa’s painstaking research turned up much more detail than we find on Chinese websites like Hutung or Baidu, which say laotong 老同 were/are young girls of the same age and temperament bound to each other for life: 老同是指的是同年出生,且长相脾气相近的女孩一生相互照顾,相互爱惜,能够推心置腹。Lisa writes that when a “woman had a daughter about to turn seven and begin her footbinding, she would meet with a matchmaker, not to find a suitable husband but to look for another girl in another village who could match eight characteristics with her daughter. Continue reading

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Article on 2003 Mammoth Discovery Posted

Mammoths of ABDSPOur article 2003 Mammoth Discovery has been posted at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Paleontology program website. Here’s a teaser:

“A 1,100,000 year-old mammoth is the largest of thousands of specimens uncovered by diligently trained paleontology volunteers spearheading a remarkable effort to discover and preserve the fossil record of the Borrego badlands.”

…Peering east over the Anza-Borrego I see dull brown and dusty khaki in shimmering waves over the barren desert and parched badlands, chalk-white sand and thorny cholla cactus. The inhospitable character of this place is evident: hot, dry, prickly.

…In the same place, however, paleontologist George Jefferson sees a broad, grassy savannah latticed by gentle streams and strewn with woodlands of willow and cottonwood, an arid, subtropical world… Continue reading

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Researching Locations in Virtual Earth and Sky

We have been away this summer, on the California coast channeling John Steinbeck and Ed Rickets into our 2014 California Intertidal Ecology Survey, and have neglected posting here about Yang Shen Book II or other related subjects. Earlier this year, we did privately print four copies for reviewers of the first four chapters of Book II and those worthies have dutifully returned their copies with comment and corrections. As the tide of our survey has ebbed (in spite of what they say, however, we are still waiting tidally on others before we can post the final reports), we shall return now to posting at Old China Books occasional snippets about our progress with the novel.

Guanfulin to Qingpu by water 2We are working now on the setting for the last part of Chapter 32, which requires a journey of fourteen miles through the Yangtze delta at midnight. As always we labor to imagine the time and place, what it looked and felt like, with sufficient detail to make it real for a fastidious reader. The landscape is essential, as Lawrence Durrell wrote in The Spirit of Place, but our task is more than to become a tuned-in traveler ̶ we can travel through the space and time of our locations only aboard our imagination. Maybe, if we just close our eyes and breathe softly, we will hear as Durrell suggested the whispered message of a landscape, “I am watching you  ̶  are you watching yourself in me?” However, there are now some other resources we have been exploring. Continue reading

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